Our second feature on Movie Week at the World SF Blog is the 6-minute Alive in Jo’burg, by director Neill Blomkamp, a precursor to the director’s lauded District 9. Enjoy!
Apologies again for missing an installment last week – here is chapter seven of Joyce Chng’s serial novella for us, The Basics of Flight.
THE BASICS OF FLIGHT
by Joyce Chng
A Moment Of Lift
The Forresters’ house struck Katherine as extremely intriguing. The moment she walked into the warm interior from the chilly outside, she was met with a study, of sorts, replete with shelves of books and a plain-looking settee. As she walked in further, she could see a large brown door marked “Workshop” with solid black ink on the left. She could hear faint banging and metallic sounds.
The right side of the house was dimmed, lit only with an electric lamp. She could see something glittering – winkwinkwink – and could hear a soft tinkling when a slight breeze whispered through the house. She found herself curious but resisted exploring the house immediately. She was, after all, Alethia’s guest.
Mrs Potts – Alethia’s nanny – showed her the guest room, a comfortably appointed chamber with a goose-down bed and thick warm blankets. There was a table with a Ming porcelain bowl (“For the washing of hands”, explained Mrs Potts to her curious young visitor) and a jug of water (“”For drinking”.)
Alethia bid her goodnight and was guided back to her own room by the older woman. With a sigh, Katherine closed the door and observed her surroundings. It was definitely more comfortable than her room in Dorset. She quickly slipped off her clothing and into a wool shift provided by Mrs Potts for the night.
The goose-bed bed was magnificent. Soft and almost inducing her to sleep immediately. Her mind was still crowded with images of her travels through the London streets. She lay in her bed, staring at the ceiling. London was slowly slipping into slumber.
She awoke, to the smells of breakfast wafting into the chamber. She did her morning ablutions, dressed and found her way down to the kitchen where Mrs Potts shoo-ed her away good-naturedly and bid her stay in the study room. Grinning, she wandered around the house. She remembered the faint tinkling sound she’d heard last night and made her way to the source.
Light from the emerging dawn sun was glistening off crystals. Or clear glass of some sort. She stopped in her tracks and simply stared. She was looking at row after rows of crystal shapes, mostly birds and winged shapes, hanging from the ceiling. They filled the entire area. Like delicate wind chimes, they gave forth a sweet tinkling sound.
It was a beautiful sight.
“It is my garden of crystals,” Alethia’s voice startled her and she wondered how the blind girl was able to locate her. “It is my favorite place.”
“It is beautiful,” Katherine admitted, lingering for a moment to look at the crystal shapes again.
“Yes, it is,” Alethia said with a soft smile on her lips. “Come. There is breakfast on the table.”
Breakfast was hearty scrambled eggs, with freshly baked scones. All from our own garden, Mr Forrester declared proudly. He was a tall man with fair hair and a shocking bush of a moustache. His eyes twinkled merrily when he spoke, much to Katherine’s growing sense of curiosity. Alethia edged ever so closer to her and said that she would elaborate further later in the day.
Mister Forrester retreated into his workshop to work on his new automata after breakfast while Mrs Potts prepared the Yule dinner in the kitchen, together with Marjorie, a maid. Alethia drew Katherine aside, to the crystal garden.
“My father believes in growing our own food,” Alethia began and Katherine blinked, in amazement and total disbelief.
“Surely not in this weather?”
“Come. Let me show you.” Alethia led her puzzled friend to a door, close to the the kitchen. She opened it. Katherine expected it to be extremely cold but the air meeting her face was warm.
She stepped out into a summer’s day.
“Basic sun-lamp and strong netting to keep the cold and garden pests away,” Alethia explained in the background while Katherine looked around, shocked. There were vegetables. Wheat. Oats. Clucking informed her that there were chicken. Plump white plover hens pecking away at seeds. “Our neighbors think we are lunatics. But the idea is successful.” A large flower-like lamp shone down upon the vegetables and assorted crops.
“The turkey has to be bought,” the blind girl said ruefully. “That is our annual indulgence. It is Yule after all. Mrs Potts saves all the feathers and turns them into decorations.”
Katherine shook her head, almost spinning with the influx of new ideas and concepts. There was a summer’s garden right under her nose and flourishing well, even though she knew it was actually winter beyond the netting and the strange sun-lamp. It was definitely a marvelous invention.
Throughout the day, she had tiny tin-men underfoot as well as steel-puppies nuzzling her ankles in strangely canine affection. Sun-fliers, fragilely made like the hummingbirds from South America, darted about, their metal wings beating rapidly. She allowed one to alight on her finger, only to have it whiz away in a blur of bronze wings. The steel-puppies – metallic bulldogs – bowed and wanted to play, their cogs whirling away in excitement while the tin-men marched around, fetching workshop material for Mr Forrester and causing merriment amongst the watchers.
She decided she had grown to like the Forresters.
Katherine played a game of Fox and Geese with Mister Forrester before the Yule dinner proper. Alethia sat quietly on the settee, “listening” to the game-play. All of them could smell the tantalizing aromas coming from the kitchen and hear the cheerful voices of Mrs Potts and Marjorie as they worked over the last-minute preparations. There was an air of anticipation in the house. Outside the window, they could hear the voices of carolers making their way down the street. It was the eve of Yule and Katherine could not help but think about her parents and little sister in Dorset. Would they miss her during this time?
Mrs Potts stepped into the study and announced that the Yule dinner was ready. Katherine led Alethia to the dining room where Marjorie was placing dinner plates on the large wooden table. It was a glorious spread with golden-brown mince pies, a basket of candied fruits and boiled brussel sprouts with a good dollop of creamy butter. They seated themselves with Mr Forrester at the head of the table. He laughed with mirth and had Mrs Potts bring in the turkey.
They joked and laughed as they ate, savoring the splendidly cooked turkey and sampling the mince pies. Katherine had some sweet port that streamed down her throat like warm fire. Soon, Mrs Potts and Marjorie joined them at the table and the humor grew exponentially with the flow of good food and delectable wine.
It was a good Yule dinner, complete with fancifully shaped ices and mints. Mrs Potts made them cups of hot mulled wine, spiced with cinnamon and anise, and plates of freshly-baked fruit cake stuffed with orange peel and raisins, after which they all complained (good-naturedly) that they were full and could not eat anymore.
As she sat on the settee with a delicious warm sensation filling her body, Katherine held her cup of mulled wine close and felt happy. Perhaps it was all the good food and pleasant company with the Forrester family; she experienced a sense of contentment, something she had not encountered ever since she had left Dorset.
She knew that she could not replace her family with a new one. Yet, the Forresters were pleasant and diligent folk of grace and good humor, a quality she realized that dour Dorset sorely lacked.
TO BE CONTINUED… NEXT WEEK!
It’s movie week here on the World SF Blog – we’ll be running trailers and whole genre short films from around the world this week. Tuesday we’ll have the next installment in Joyce Chng’s serial, The Basics of Flight. But let’s start the week!
First up we have something of a unique proposition: the Israeli short horror film Achul (Eaten), directed by Elad Rath and starring no other than Apex Book of World SF contributor, science fiction writer (and rather scary monster in his spare time!) Nir Yaniv. Enjoy!
Film in Hebrew, with English subtitles.
Over at the Apex Blog, Michael A. Burstein is extending the debate started by Norman Spinrad’s controversial “Third World Worlds” column in Asimov’s. Burstein focuses on American writer Mike Resnick, and his treatment of African themes and settings:
Mike loves Africa, and has done more than just go on a safari. Mike has actually gone on six safaris
You can also follow the dialogue with N.K. Jemisin in the comments section.
The recently-launched World Chinese-Language Science Fiction Research Workshop has posted its newsletter for June 2010 and includes various news and reactions regarding Chinese science fiction. Here are some of its news items:
- Rao Zhonghua, Popular Science Writer and SF Scholar, Dies
- World Chinese Science Fiction Association Extends Nominations for 2010 “XINGYUN” Chinese Fantasy Awards
- World Chinese Science Fiction Association Launches Romantic Journeys Series
- August: Galaxy Awards and SFW Writers’ Conference
- First Set of Selected Master Works of Golden Age Chinese SF Released
- Strong Reactions to The History of Science Fiction
- Chinese SF in a Fight for its Life?
- College Students to Shoot SF Film for 2,000 RMB
- Funding Problems for 4D Science Fiction Film Future Dinosaurs
- Chinese Science Fiction Monthly Newsletter Launches
Check out the newsletter for more information on these news items.
Hannu Rajaniemi, a Finnish writer who has been living in Scotland, made a major three book deal with British Gollancz about a year and a half ago. The first book, “The Quantum Thief”, will be out in September.
The Tiptree-award winning Johanna Sinisalo has a short story called ”Bear’s Bride” in the anthology “The Beastly Bride” edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.
Tiina Raevaara has published a novel and a short story collection which both have clear speculative fiction elements.
J. Pekka Mäkelä has already published four SF books and translated a lot more (e.g. by Philip K. Dick and Sean Stewart). Link to his short story ”Thirty More Years” in pdf-format can be found on Finnish Writers web page.
Remember to also check this great episode of Tommi Musturi’s comic Walking with Samuel (no words, just pictures).
Abigail Nussbaum on With Both Feet in the Clouds: Fantasy in Hebrew Literature, edited by Hagar Yanai and Danielle Gurevitch
Abigail Nussbaum brings up a lot of points in her analysis of the book With Both Feet in the Clouds. Here’s an excerpt:
This isn’t something that I think about very often, but I live half my life in a foreign language. It’s the language I’m writing in right now. My actual, physical life, is lived in Hebrew. It’s the language I work in, the one I shop and bank and commute in, the one I use with friends and acquaintances and people on the street. But it’s not the language I write in, because it’s not the language I read in. I’m not sure when exactly it happened, but somewhere around the point that I transitioned from children’s books to adult fiction, I stopped reading Israeli writers, for reasons that I suspect will be familiar to many Israeli genre fans–because the books that caught my fancy, the Asimovs and Tolkiens and Pratchetts, were foreign. Unlike many of my fellow fans, I had the command of English that allowed me, eventually, to read free of the mediation of Israeli translators and publishers. So from a very early age I learned to gravitate to the English section of the bookstore, and when my literary horizons broadened beyond genre, that’s where I looked for reading material to scratch my new itches (and then online bookselling happened and I all but abandoned the Israeli bookstore). These days my tastes are varied enough that if I had the proper introduction I could probably read quite happily in Hebrew, but the reason I stepped away from it in the first place was that no one was writing genre in it. That’s changed somewhat in the last 15 years (right around the time that I was discovering English-language fantasy and science fiction), but Israeli genre works are still thin on the ground.
The question, of course, is why, and it’s one that Hagar Yanai and Danielle Gurevitch have tried to address in their essay collection With Both Feet in the Clouds, from the Israeli genre publisher Graff. As Yanai puts it in her introduction, how is it possible that in a country that garnered the inspiration for its very existence from a piece of utopian science fiction, the fantastic has been all but exiled from the cultural scene? This is a question I’d been thinking of in slightly different terms since the Jewish fantasy conversation exploded all over the internet this winter, spurred on by Michael Weingrad’s essay “Why There is No Jewish Narnia” (in which Yanai, who has written two volumes of a YA fantasy trilogy, is one of two authors discussed). My interest was in the Israeli aspect of the question, and when I became involved with content planning for this year’s ICon convention it was the first topic that came to mind. Which is when I was made aware of Yanai and Gurevitch’s book, which Rani Graff was kind enough to send me a copy of.
Penguin Classics has launched their Central European Classics Collection (which are currently 20% off) which features translated works by authors from Central Europe. Here’s their list of titles:
Thomas Bernhard: Old Masters
Karel Čapek: War with the Newts
E.M. Cioran: A Short History of Decay
György Faludy: My Happy Days in Hell
Gyula Krúdy: Life is a Dream
Czesław Miłosz: Proud to be a Mammal
Sławomir Mrożek: The Elephant
Ota Pavel: How I Came to Know Fish
Gregor von Rezzori: The Snows of Yesteryear
Josef Škvorecký: The Cowards
Guangyi Li writes in to mention that Yan Wu, Guangyi Li, and Nathaniel Isaacson has launched a website that focuses on Chinese-language science fiction studies: http://www.chinesescifi.org/. Here’s more information from their About Page:
在过去一个世纪中华文明呈现给世界的所有奇迹中，科幻文学的产生和发展，可能是最堪称奇迹的奇迹之一。在这样一个几乎没有西方意义科学传统的文明 中，科幻文学被吸纳、鼓吹、创作、传播，并随中国的时代进程而跌宕起伏。今天，当中国在国际舞台上愈发引人瞩目，源自华夏的文明在世界各地枝繁花茂，以华 文为载体的科幻文学和文化仍然在通向未来的道路上踟蹰。
从上世纪末开始，一批有志于科幻研究的学者，已经在两岸三地乃至不同的大洲开始了各自独立的探索，许多优秀的成果随之出现。但是，大家仍然感到，缺 乏有效的交流，缺乏诚挚的对话，缺乏能激荡心灵的辩驳。因此，我们发起成立这个科幻研究坊，目的是希望世界各地对华文科幻文学感兴趣的研究者和爱好者能将 智力和思想汇聚于此，分享各自的发现，研讨重要的问题，体验共同的快乐。我们也希望通过这个群体能增进相互之间的友谊，促进资源和人员的交流，并在未来建 立我们自己的独立的实体活动空间。
In the past century among all of Chinese civilization’s marvelous contributions to the world, perhaps the creation and development of SF literature can be considered a marvel among marvels. In this civilization, almost lacking a tradition of science in its western sense, SF has been taken in, advocated, created, popularized and has risen and fallen in accord with China’s historical vicissitudes. Today, while China captures more and more attention upon the world stage, and Chinese civilization’s contributions flourish throughout the globe, SF literature and culture transmitted in the Chinese language continues down the road to an uncertain future.
How many little-known stories are there in its past, and what will its future hold?
Beginning at the end of the last century, a group of scholars well-versed in SF studies in mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong and even beyond Asia began independent investigations of the subject and many outstanding achievements resulted. However, many still sensed a lack of productive exchange, a lack of sincere dialogue, and a lack of truly emotionally stirring debate. Because of this, the objective of the founders of this Science Fiction Research Workshop is to allow those scholars and fans throughout the world who share interest in Chinese-language SF to compile their wisdom and thoughts here, to share discoveries, to deliberate upon critical issues and to share in the mutual pleasures of this pursuit. We also hope that this sense of growing camaraderie will spur on the exchange of human and material resources, and in the future will allow for the creation of a real space where we can freely carry out these activities.
The World Chinese-language Science Fiction Research Workshop welcomes the participation of all colleagues, and hopes we can bring a sense of the poetic and the profound, to this transcultural and transregional warm home where we inspire and enlighten each other!
I interviewed Lavie Tidhar and Nir Yaniv on their novel, The Tel Aviv Dossier, over at SF Signal. Here’s an excerpt:
What made you decide to set the story in Tel Aviv? What is it about that city that you find interesting?
LT: We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to entirely destroy it! I think it looked better when we were done with it. We were signing books yesterday near the municipality building, next to that huge, awful “sculpture” that’s been slowly rusting in the square for more years than it had any right to – and we both kind of looked at it and wished, for just a moment, that some supernatural catastrophe would happen just so we can see it gone.
Or maybe that’s just me.
NY: As long as the catastrophe is limited to that particular piece of “art”, I’m with you. However, being a long time resident of Tel Aviv, I prefer my own apartment to stay untouched. But I wasn’t born here – I grew up in the northern part of Israel – so I still know what it is to be an outsider here, which served me quite well when writing the book. Every day, riding my motorbike here and there in the city, I used to imagine all those buildings falling apart and the vehicles around me flying around and the people, the poor people. A piece of advice for beginning writers: never imagine anything while writing a motorbike. Really. Expert stuntmen were used in writing this book.